Congress Approves Free Trade Agreement

Earlier this week, Congress finally approved a long stalled free trade agreement with Columbia, Panama, and South Korea, lowering trade barriers on a number of American exports, including a wide variety of agricultural goods. According to the Obama administration, which has long advocated the passage of this agreement, the increased trade could boost U.S. exports by $13 billion.

The agreement, which dates back to the Bush administration, was held up in Congress by Democrats displeased by the Columbian government inaction regarding the killings of Columbian trade unionists.

The passage of the agreement has been met with mixed reactions. The President of Columbia, Juan Manuel Santos, praised the bill, calling it, “the most important commercial [agreement] we’ve signed in our history.” Santos believes that the increased trade could create over 700,000 Columbian jobs and could boost Columbian exports by $17 billion.

American farmers are also ecstatic about the agreement. Predicting roughly $2.5 billion in agricultural exports, the American Farm Bureau believes that the agreement could create over 22,000 agricultural jobs, jobs that are desperately needed given the current economic climate.

Small farmers, however, are worried about the implications of free trade. Oxfam International, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting poverty, has predicted that the trade agreement could lower small farmers’ income by over 10 percent. A flood of cheaper, subsidized American goods could put many Columbian and Panamanian farmers out of business.

The trade agreement has been sent to President Obama for ratification, which expected to occur quickly.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer